Sunday, March 4, 2012

March is Women's History Month

How much do you know about women throughout history?  When I went to school, very little was taught about women.  In fact, they were almost entirely absent from the history books.  Betsy Ross sewed the flag and Sacajawea led Lewis & Clark on their exploration of the West.   

Betsy Ross
Very few of the books that were required reading were written by women.  Although we read Silas Marner, I don’t remember being told that the author, George Eliot, was in fact a woman using a pseudonym. 
George Eliot/Mary Anne Evans

And, it wasn’t until I was in college that I learned that women did not have the right to vote in America until 1920.  

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted all American women the right to vote, was ratified in August, 1920.  Did you know that prior to that date, women did vote in some locations in the U.S.?  Here are some interesting facts:

  •   Lydia Chapin Taft voted legally in 1756 at a town meeting in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.  The right was temporary and not protected by law
  •  Unmarried women and widows were granted the right to vote under New Jersey’s state constitution of 1776.  Their right to vote ended in 1807 when the law changed to include only white males.
  • Wyoming, while still a territory, granted voting rights to women in December, 1869.  Wyoming became a state in 1890 and women’s right to vote was codified in the state constitution.
  • The Utah Territory gave women the right to vote in February, 1870.  The United States Congress took away women’s right to vote in Utah in 1887 and it wasn’t restored until Utah became a state in 1896. 
  •  Colorado adopted an amendment granting women’s suffrage in 1893. 

You can find a timeline of the Women’s Suffrage Movement here:

But women’s participation in history isn’t simply limited to their work to win the right to vote.  Although all too often relegated as such, women have been more than window dressing throughout the history of the world and America. 

Many years ago I read the series of books written by Inglis Fletcher.  The last books in her series took place in Edenton, North Carolina.  Although they were historical fiction, many of the characters were real, with some being residents of Edenton before the Civil War.  I had a chance to visit the Outer Banks and Edenton.  While there I found out about the Women’s Tea Party that occurred in 1774.  You can read more about it here:

Take some time to learn more about the many women who have played important roles throughout history.  Celebrate their achievements and let them inspire you.  Women, like Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great and Cleopatra ruled powerful countries.  Others, like Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey & Mary Leakey advanced science.  Delores Huerta co-founded the United Farmworkers along with Cesar Chavez.  Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, helped bring Zora Neale Hurston’s writings to worldwide attention.  Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm were groundbreaking African American women elected to Congress.  Women’s voices must be part of all nation’s dialogs.  Our voices have been marginalized and/or silenced for far too long.  Women’s history is our history, it’s every person’s history and should be celebrated each and every day of the year.

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